ERIC Croft’s passing and all his lifetime achievements were deservedly well recorded in the Dispatch.
My memory of Eric, however, was from the perspective of a six-year-old National School (infants) pupil in Miss Wilmott’s class.
What happened was that my parents lived in Montague Road in around 1955/6 and Mr Croft’s hardware shop in Annesley Road was just 50 yards down our street opposite Stirland’s (as it was then) newsagents.
As autumn approached Mr Croft stocked ‘loose’ fireworks as a ‘sideline.’ My mum and I went into his shop one day for a tin of Dura Glit so that dad could clean his motorbike combination and that’s when I spotted the fireworks. They were kept in a wooden case on the counter with a glass front, probably to deflect burning fag ash!
I was smitten by by these colourful curiosities and especially the conical-shaped ones!
Every week from then until just before Bonfire Night mum would take me down to Eric’s shop to buy a few—– just a bob’s worth here and there as mum could afford with her odd bits of small change.
After each visit I emerged clutching a little bag of, say, Golden Rains, Catherine Wheels, Snow Storms and Sparklers...and finally, the crowning glory, A Roman Candle. No nasty bangers, though.
A shoebox was used to store my growing collection at home: I checked, cherished and fondled them daily.
But, come November 5, I had mixed feelings about dad letting them all off with his glowing cigarette end in the gloom of our back garden.
My shoebox full of treasures soon went up in smoke! But they did create an interesting ‘pong’ in the going!
But back to Mr Croft and I remember him in the shop always dressed in a brownish or grey knee-length warehouse coat. As I was only a nipper he seemed to me ‘middle-aged’ but of course he must have been no older than his mid to late twenties at the time and still a young man.
Like most old-fashioned hardware shops of the period, Mr Croft’s shop had that typical background ‘whiff’ of paraffin, sandpaper, firelighters, cardboard and freshly-chopped wood kindling.
Not entirely unplesant, really.
To digress, if I may, another ‘gem’ of a shop in Hucknall at this period was Bullock’s in High Street.
With Bonfire Night gone and Christmas ahead Bullock’s shop window was a magnet for young boys as it was full of Hornby train sets in blue boxes and Dinky Toys of all kinds parked nose-to-nail on the shelves.
Many of the Dinkies (especially the Dinky Supertoys) were well beyond pocket-money means so imagine my delight on that Christmas morning long ago to find that Santa had, indeed, read my letter and made me the proud owner of a gleaming Foden eight-wheel Mobilgas fuel tanker.
This more than compensated for the ‘loss’ of my treasured fireworks from a few weeks earlier.
Finally of pongs, smells and aromas the fumes of a coke-fired boiler — like the one they had at the old National in Annesley Road — forever remind me of schooldays.....but Miss Wilmott’s brand of perfume was far nicer!